A Heart Full of Headstones by Ian Rankin

Today I am delighted to share my thoughts on A Heart Full of Headstones, the latest Rebus novel from Ian Rankin. I have been dying to read this since the very unexpected ending to its predecessor, A Song For The Dark Times. Does it live up to expectation …? Well read on to find out. Here’s what it’s about:

Source: Owned Copy
Release Date: 13 October 2022
Publisher: Orion

About the Book

John Rebus had been in court plenty of times, but this was his first time in the dock…

John Rebus stands accused: on trial for a crime that could put him behind bars for the rest of his life. Although it’s not the first time the legendary detective has taken the law into his own hands, it might be the last.

What drove a good man to cross the line? Or have times changed, and the rules with them?

Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke faces Edinburgh’s most explosive case in years, as a corrupt cop goes missing after claiming to harbour secrets that could sink the city’s police force.

But in this investigation, it seems all roads lead to Rebus – and Clarke’s twin loyalties to the public and the police will be tested to their limit.

A reckoning is coming – and John Rebus may be hearing the call for last orders…

My Thoughts

Well, well well. This book has quite the opener and, to be fair, quite the closing chapter too! Could this be Rebus’s swan song? A final farewell to Edinburgh’s most loved and perhaps, most notorious Detective? Well, if you want to know the answer to that, you’ll have to read the book where the question might, or might not, be answered.

It’s fair to say the story opens in style – as the blurb suggests, Rebus is in the dock. The accused, not a witness, and it is the cause of his unexpected incarceration that makes up the lion’s share of the book, and certainly not something I’m going to divulge in this review. But it is probably not what you are thinking it might be. Or maybe it is.

After the surprising opening chapter, Ian Rankin takes us back over the days leading up to Rebus’s arrest, and an special investigation that he is conducting, trying to locate a former associate of Ger Cafferty who has allegedly resurfaced after many years assumed dead. His name has also come up in an investigation into corruption, which seems Malcolm Fox and Siobhan Clarke forced to work together again. It’s all go for Rebus. Still trying to navigate a post-lockdown world and his own declining health. Not that any of this would ever stop him.

I really enjoyed the way that the author has framed this story, the intertwining investigations that make you wonder just who is really investigating who. It’s also a question of who is pulling the strings, leaving us never quite certain of where the real threat to our protagonist or his former colleagues may be coming from. The book is infused with conflict and moments of tension, scenes that set the anger levels to the max, particularly when you consider one of the central themes of the book is around domestic abuse, something that increased exponentially with the enforced lockdowns of the pandemic. Art most definitely imitating life in this case.

The book is packed with the typical acerbic whit and observations of Rebus. He may be older, and his body may not allow him the freedoms he once had, but there is no sign of that slowing him down from a mental perspective. He is always one step ahead, winding up everyone, from Fox to some of the other characters on the periphery of the investigation, right down to some of the more familiar faces from his past. But there is a sense that there is anew threat on the streets, one that is perhaps more of a risk to Rebus than he has given credit for, and that conflict adds a fresh kind of enjoyment to an already brilliant series.

What you do have to love about Rebus is that, in spite of his cynicism and his often unorthodox methods, he does have a good heart. He tries to help others, to steer them on the right path, even when his own choices have been suspect over the years. He may not succeed, but there is a real feeling that he wants others, one character particular in this case, to achieve more than seems to be written for him. It’s a poignant part of the story, that and Rebus’ relationship with his daughter and granddaughter, and even Siobhan Clarke, lending the book a slightly more emotional tone at times.

And then the ending. The scenes that give context to that eyebrow raising opening chapter. Well … If you don’t like cliffhangers then this book is going to drive you crazy, but for me it was the perfect way to end the book, and to keep us all on tenterhooks to see when, or even if, we see Rebus again. Twenty four books in and Ian Rankin is still leaving us with one hell of a book hangover. Definitely recommended.

About the Author

Ian Rankin is the multimillion-copy worldwide bestseller of over thirty novels and creator of John Rebus. His books have been translated into thirty-six languages and have been adapted for radio, the stage and the screen.

Rankin is the recipient of four Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards, including the Diamond Dagger, the UK’s most prestigious award for crime fiction. In the United States, he has won the celebrated Edgar Award and been shortlisted for the Anthony Award. In Europe, he has won Denmark’s Palle Rosenkrantz Prize, the French Grand Prix du Roman Noir and the German Deutscher Krimipreis.

He is the recipient of honorary degrees from universities across the UK, is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature, and has received an OBE for his services to literature.

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